Monday, December 07, 2015

In the Picture: Augustus Caesar

 The Meroë Head
27-25 BC The British Museum

Read: Luke 2:1
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 

This lifelike (and slightly larger than life size) head of Augustus Caesar was found buried under the steps of a temple in the Egyptian city of Meroë. Originally part of a complete statue, it had been deliberately buried as a gesture of contempt when the Kushites recaptured their capital city from the Romans.  The defeat of the Romans at Meroë was a rare event, however. Augustus, the second Emperor of Rome, Julius Caesar’s adopted son and heir, ruled over an enormous empire, which included most of the Middle East. Julius Caesar had been declared divine after his death and his successors would all be declared to be living gods. Every Roman citizen would be required to offer incense to them as a sacrifice, something which brought the early Christians into dispute with Rome and cost many of them their lives. Augustus was, as far as the Romans were concerned, the Son of God, and the rather piercing gaze in this statue was meant to remind people who held the power in their world. But Luke’s account of the birth of Christ challenged this. The Son of God was not a military or political leader, imposing his will by force, he was an ordinary child, born to an unmarried mother, in humble circumstances, with nothing but a manger for a bed. It must have seemed an outrageous and ridiculous claim at the time, but while worldly leaders have come and gone, Jesus’ life still has a living and direct impact on many billions of people, bringing them joy, peace and hope.

  • Which events in the news today do you think will have the greatest effect on the future? What legacy will the leaders of today leave?
  • What do you think it means to call Jesus the “Son of God”? How do you understand this?

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